POLL POSITION: An official with the voting machine at Philippine Consulate in Dubai Image Credit: JAY HILOTIN/XPRESS

DUBAI Amid concerns of low voter turnout, around 100,000 Filipino voters in the UAE will pick 12 senators through an automated polling system for the first time from April 13.

Six precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines — each with a capacity of 10,000 votes — were unsealed and checked on Wednesday in Dubai in the presence of officials from Manila’s Department of Science and Technology (Dost), Commission on Elections (Comelec), the media and Filipino community representatives. Two more machines were on standby. In Abu Dhabi there will be three primary PCOS machines and two on standby, said visiting Comelec official Jannice Leigh Cañeba.

But turnout remains a big issue: During the 2010 presidential elections when voting was done manually, only 7,900 voted (less than 10 per cent) out of the nearly 48,000 registered Filipino voters in the UAE. The number of voters registered in the UAE has doubled since then.

“We’re expecting a higher turnout this time because of the excitement generated by automated voting,” said Cañeba.

The voting starts on April 13 and ends at 3pm on May 13.

Peter Antonio Banzon, a Dost official, said safeguards are in place to ensure a credible vote.

“Our system is paper-based so even recounts, when necessary, would be efficient,” he said.

There are about 68,000 registered Filipino voters in Dubai and the northern emirates and another 30,000 in Abu Dhabi –16 per cent of the estimated 600,000 Filipinos in the UAE.